While innocently reading my email, I opened a challenge from the Idaho Botanical Gardens to create scarecrows for their annual scarecrow crawl the first weekend in October. Since retiring last year, I have been expanding my craft activities. This email literally shouted at me, “Do it! Make a paper mache scarecrow!” The Botanical Garden Theme was Idaho history and I immediately thought to make Sara Palin. Ms. Palin attended the University of Idaho so met the Idaho history criteria. But farther down in the rules, it stated scarecrows would not be allowed that had any political theme or were derogatory. I don’t have an expansive enough imagination to link scare crow, Palin and paper mache into any type of positive image. I immediately rejected the Palin concept and moved on to a scarecrow witch. I thought I could handle dressing some type of large doll and making a paper mache face and hands. The real challenge was getting the doll to stand up on a pole. The entry materials warned that the scarecrows would have to last seven weeks through potentially vile weather including rain, wind and hail. The apparatus to support the doll had to be substantial. Fortunately, I have a friend who does wood working and agreed to help me suspend the doll once decorated. So my entry went in as “Bewitching”. As the project grew in scope and scariness, I later added Boo-tiful. My final entry was the Bewitching Ms. Boo-tiful!
I researched online “big dolls”. I discovered there are many variations of inappropriate life-sized sex toys. I also discovered much to my delight that Mattel makes a My Size Barbie which stands over 3 feet tall, the perfect form to make a paper mache witch. I ordered my used Barbie princess on EBay. The big doll came in a golf clubs box. The shipping cost more than the doll. My daughter, Kayla, informed me she didn’t like large dolls and didn’t want the doll in the house. So when Barbie arrived, I invited her to sit with us for dinner a few nights in my son’s seat (he’s away at college).
Kayla was incensed to have Barbie sitting across the table at meal (this just proves that I am fundamentally a wicked mother).
I had planned on dressing Barbie in a black plastic garbage bag because of the weather concerns. I had years of 4-H many moons ago so I felt I would be able to sew a credible dress from a plastic bag. However, I discovered at Wal-Mart that My Size Barbie fits perfectly into size 2 toddler clothes. I bought her black hot pants, silver Lycra leggings, little tiny, black leather boots and a black lace shirt. A black cape, red wig, Halloween socks, black children’s mittens all came from the Dollar Store; as did glittery orange and black spiders and a flying bat. I ordered online a child’s witch’s broom for the cross bar of the scarecrow along with child’s witch’s hat. The broom arrived all bent up with the straw broken but it was too much bother to return so I taped on the little pieces of straw with black masking tape. I learned on this project that masking tape is a cure all for all sorts of production problems. When we had a week of rain as the project was coming together, I cut an orange cape out of an old plastic table cloth to keep downpours off Ms. Boo-tiful’s back (only the best for my witchy fiend).
Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were the reason I started this wacky project to begin with. I wanted another venue for my paper mache crafting. The big concern was how to keep paper mache from dissolving when it has to be outside for seven weeks. Of course, the internet is full of advice on how to sustain paper mache. My favorite video was a research project conducted in England by a man who made paper mache creatures out of balloons, coated them with different varnishes and placed them outside to see which if any of the balloon people could survived England’s’ notorious wet climate. Regular varnish vanished into a caved in puddle of cardboard within a week but the balloon man coated with marine varnish (used on boats and quite expensive) made it through England’s winter looking largely the same only a little more yellow with age. Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were coated four times with marine varnish and left to cure 4 days. Hopefully, this keeps her together through October.
The most enjoyable part of the project was assembly. My friend, Henry Reents, mounted Ms. Boo-tiful on a 4 foot pvc pipe using a large toggle bolt in the back. Her broom stick was also screwed into the CVP pipe. Her paper mache hands were screwed into the broom. She is wired at the waist to the PVC pipe. Her wig is screwed on and her hat is held in place with push pins Henry pounded into place with a hammer. We spent two delightful afternoons assembling Ms. Boo-itful. We found ourselves giggling evilly together as Henry continued to put screws and wires into the transformed Barbie. Who knew creating the perfect witch could be such devilish fun.
Ms. Boo-tiful went out to the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday, September 29th. The Garden provided a rebar pipe in the ground and I just popped Ms. Boo-tiful on it. Sue and Henry Reents and my husband and I went out to see her at the Botanical Harvest Festival on Sunday. It was a beautiful fall day. There was music, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, and a beer garden. The place was packed with little children, running wildly about. A couple accidently tumbled into us as we strolled. There were 16 scarecrows entered in the Scarecrow Crawl. They were eclectic group and ranging from objects made by kindergarteners to gorgeous displays from Boise’s largest family-owned garden shop. After viewing Ms. Boo-itful who truly is a fantastical, scary, scarecrow, we spent time sitting in the shade watching all the activities. The Harvest festival is a “must do” for families in Boise the fall.
Ms. Boo-itful has to be removed between November 1 and 3. At that time, I’ll get to see up close how the marine varnish worked. I will hazard a guess now that she will be frightening indeed after being out in the Idaho fall weather for six weeks.