Hallowe'en approaches, and this year my wife and I decided to spend some money on costumes and decorations. One item I dearly wanted to get is something that isn't easily bought or sold: a Necronomicon, or Book Of The Dead.
Originally a fearsome invention by H.P. Lovecraft (an item that Lovecraft based on his own bizarre research into the occult), the Necronomicon has gone from a grimoire of dark witchery to a pop culture icon thanks to the popular "Evil Dead" franchise of horror-comedy movies, games, and TV shows.
That's pretty much the Necronomicon I want. Last year, I took my wife to see "Evil Dead: The Musical" (please click here to see JSVB Post #1076), and they had a really nice Necronomicon stage prop. I guess that's where I figured, "if they can do it, I can too".
There are a few guides on how to build your own Necronomicon on the Internet. I stayed away from the ones that would be powerful enough to conjure demons and settled for one by knowledgeable Reid Carter, who built his own Necronomicon in the likeness of the one in the movies.
My art supplies at hand were different from Mr. Carter's, so I diverged from his course wherever I had to to keep my budget down and my sanity up.
The first step was to re-purpose an old book. I had this one on my shelf for years, and it happens to be really close to standard paper size which was helpful since I wanted to use standard paper from my desktop printer. The cover is a bit shiny, so I decided to sand it down with rough sandpaper to make it rough.
Sanding off the shiny part was strange. I ended up peeling off the entire cover, which left a very rough composite of cloth and paper underneath. It's sort of like the material for bandaging a mummy. Although it was very fibrous, the "new" cover has an organic-looking texture, which should help.
Oh yeah, and the book was filled with pages I no longer needed. I decided to cut them all out en masse. I know now from experience: you haven't defiled a book until you've cut out all its pages using an electric circular saw. Unfortunately I'm lousy with power tools, so my cut was not straight and I ended up damaging the book's spine. I fixed it with duct tape. Hooray for duct tape! I put the discarded pages in recycling. Now the garbage collectors can read about potato production in Peru, but some benighted Grade Seven schoolkid cannot (for it was also a library book that I gutted. Evil, yes, yes, I know, I know already).
The next step was to apply the features using Super Sculpey polymer clay. Sculpey is tremendous since it's pliable and workable until you bake it. Then it hardens into plastic.
That's what I recall from art school, anyways, which was around twenty years ago. I bought a box of Sculpey for use in class back then but never opened it until today. When I did unseal it, I found a brick rather than malleable clay. I guess it hardens on its own if you leave it to sit long enough, say for decades.
I softened the Sculpey bit by bit using a meat tenderizer. Note the flesh tone of the Sculpey as I mallet it into submission. BANG! BANG! BANG! Maybe a thousand times. My wife knew I was holed up in the garage making my Necronomicon, but she wasn't prepared for all that hammering. Although the process was slow and painful (and as I found out later, completely unneccesary), I did get my entire box of Sculpey just barely soft enough to work on without spraining my hand.
Here's the thing: right after I did all that banging around with the tenderizer, I checked online to see how to soften Super Sculpey. Apparently all you have to do is add a little baby oil. Sheesh. Now you tell me.
So here's the features of the Necronomicon fused to the book. Super Sculpey isn't super sticky, so I had to press it carefully onto the book. I think I made the features too thick. If I had more Sculpey, I could have covered the entire surface instead of just the main features. On the other hand, Sculpey is surprisingly heavy, and I was impressed with how heavy my book had become. Or alarmed, take your pick.
Turpentine thins out Sculpey. I brushed on the turpentine to smooth out my rough lines and used wire tools to make creases and wrinkles. You want to know a secret about Necronomicons that they never mention in the movies?
They Smell Bad.
The reek of turpentine, duct tape glue, polymer clay, and wet book makes a smell that is both unforgettable and instantly recognizeable as belonging solely to a Necronomicon. So, if you follow my blundering footsteps into making your own Necronomicon project, do it someplace that has proper ventilation.
My eye was sore all the next day. I don't know for certain why, but I can guess.