The Creation of a Thing… In a Jar

Last week, I finished an involved reworking of the third and fourth chapters of my work in progress, revising them into a single entity. I start this week doing the same with the old fifth and sixth chapters to create a new chapter four. This has been trudging work when I have had both limited time to write and a desire to surge forward and write new material for the story. However, it has really improved my language and plotting; it is reading much better than before and I think that it will give me a solid springboard to build on the new additions to come. So, in a nutshell, I’m happy with it but just wish that I had more time to write!

I’m also becoming more comfortable with a new title for the work; Unsundered: The Lost Tomb of Osrydian.

In addition to my ongoing work on Unsundered, I posted a short story called The Visitor on October second that proved popular on Aethereal Engines. That was a good feeling! It’s a standalone short fantasy story and a quick read if you want to check it out.

I write every day, but finding significant blocks of time to write at length can be a challenge. This is particularly true in October, when I’m generally doing far too much because of my love of Halloween. It is simply my favorite holiday. Every year we haul out an ever growing collection of stored decorations and transform our little house into a phantasmagorical space until November rolls in. This year I’m hosting a monster movie night, a gathering to honor the dead, a traditional all-ages Halloween party and finally I’m attending a midnight outdoor gathering on the big-evening itself.  However, I’m not going to complain about taking some time to enjoy myself; instead I’m exploring my creativity in other mediums as events siphon some time away from my writing!

I’ve mentioned H.P. Lovecraft a few times before here. I’ve known about his creations since childhood but I only directly sat down and read his major works a few years ago. I had become tired of only knowing his work second-hand and took a fall and winter reading a wonderful collection of his stories. They in no small part re-ignited my interest in his friend and contemporary R.E. Howard’s creation Conan the Barbarian and the two of them defiantly are inspirations in my writing. I wouldn’t say that Unsundered is a tribute to Howard and Lovecraft, but that their work inspired its shaping and continual growth in my imagination.

This weekend, as part of finalizing my Halloween decorating, I decided to create a “Lovecraftian Thing” to place in a jar as a curiosity prop. I got the idea a year ago when my dad gave me a huge glass jar he had salvaged from parts unknown. It was far too huge for any practical use in our small kitchen, and had some rust on the inside lid as well. However, its size reminded me of an old-fashioned specimen jar and I immediately was inspired to create a creepy prop out of it. I didn’t get to it last year because of time and money constraints, but found the inspiration to create it this year.

Let me say from the onset that the “thing” isn’t supposed to represent anything that I’m aware of in Lovecraft’s work… I just had his weird monsters in mind the entire time I was working on it. I think it would fit in as something he could have created in his tales, however. Beforehand, I spent some time looking up instructions on how others had crafted similar creations with instructionals that I found here and here, they were really helpful as I’ve never made anything like this before.

I started by balling and twisting aluminum foil to sculpt a shape. I didn’t have any sort of plan or design before I touched the Reynolds Wrap, I just let my imagination run and created an underlying structure and armature. With the underlying armature of aluminum foil done, I layered a skin of Sculpey polymer clay over it in pancake like slabs about an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick. Once the rough polymer clay sculpting covered all the foil, I added the “eyes” (dark purple glass beads) and molded them in with more Sculpey. I added the wrinkling details and such on the surface with the modest rubber nib of a sculpting tool. Finally I baked it in the oven to set and harden the clay.

I had never worked with polymer clay before, let alone this technique, but I was quite pleased with the results, before and after it came out of the oven…

thing_d1a thing_d1b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(You can click the pictures for a bigger view) I retired for the evening… Well, early morning at that point… And let the figure cool until the next day. On Sunday I added a layer of grey-green acrylic paint and let it dry while I worked on other Halloween projects.

thing_d2a

I created labels for the big old jar my thing will reside in using a template I found online and printed. I filled it out in pencil and my normal and terrible cursive handwriting that I never use to make the legibility intentionally poor unless you are really persistent. I then crumpled the papers, unfolded and boiled them with some black tea to artificially age and distress them. After some drying with a hairdryer, I attached the labels to the jar with glue and some fudged errors to further the distressed look.

thing_d2b

Throughout the day I would add a layer to the sculpture then work on another project while it dried. In total there were four layers of painting: The first layer of grey-green acrylic paint, then two layers of watered down acrylic applied as a blackwash to bring out the creases and folds on the surface, and a final layer of rubber cement to give it a sticky, organic appearance. Here it is sitting in its jar before I added any liquid:

thing_d2c

The sculpture was surprisingly buoyant when I first submerged it in fluid; so much so that it bobbed directly at the top of the liquid and was too hard to see. I hadn’t expected that given how tightly I had packed the aluminum foil armature at its core…  Next time I make another one of these I’m going to build the foil around a rock or two to prevent this!

Fortunately, my wife had the brilliant idea to hot-glue the sculpture to the bottom of the glass jar. This worked perfectly, quickly and also solved the problem of the thing falling over if it got bumped too hard in the jar. All that needed to be done after that was to add a mixture of two-thirds water and one third leftover root-beer and cola I had lying around to give the fluid an obscuring quality as if its preserving fluid was alcohol or a tainted formaldehyde. It took some mixing, drawing and pouring to get the right level of tint and murk but in the end it was worth it:

thing_d2d

… And it’s Done! Now I have a curiosity acquired from a private dealer that was originally part of Miskatonic University’s scientific collection (before those nasty fanatical problems and budget cuts forced them to sell it in the early 1980s). In my house I have it displayed in dimmer light than you see here on my kitchen stove that adds more to its mystery, but unfortunately it doesn’t photograph well on my camera there.

thing_d2e

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out personally, what do you think? Let me know with a comment or share one of your own Halloween projects this year!

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4 thoughts on “The Creation of a Thing… In a Jar

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  1. I discovered Mr. Lovecraft shortly after my grandmother died. His weird and wonderful stories helped me escape, at least for a while, the greif I was going through. Anything that celebrates his visions brings a smile to this face. Well done, well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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