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“Vintage” Halloween Cat Bowl

Paper mache cat bowl

I have been really inspired lately by Up All Night DIY on YouTube. That faux vintage aesthetic is fun, and her videos are extremely clear and easy to follow. I wanted to make something in the same style, so I set out to make this Halloween Cat bowl-thing.

Up All Night DIY almost always works in air-dry clay, sometimes simply modeling in the clay, and sometimes wrapping a layer of air-dry clay over a styrofoam shape. She gets really good results that way.

Of course, I wanted to work in paper mache, because it’s my favorite, and I thought it would be a good medium for that rough, vintage aesthetic. These types of designs were originally hand made in paper mache anyway, so I went with it.

How to Make Your Own Vintage-Style Halloween Cat Bowl

I followed these steps to make this design:

  • Paper mache over a balloon to create the basic shape. When doing paper mache over a balloon, it’s best to work fairly quickly and get at least 3 layers on the balloon, and then leave it to dry completely overnight. Overnight, the balloon will deflate a little and not be as firm or resistant, so further layers the next day will tend to buckle and wrinkle. Fewer than 3 layers of paper will usually not be sturdy enough as a base for the rest of the project, so get 3 layers on and then let it dry. Pop and remove the balloon the following morning.
  • Cut the paper mache to create the bowl shape. Depending on how you did your paper mache, you may need to trim or cut the top edges to create your desired bowl shape.
  • Create a base. I used a ring of cardboard to add a neck that would serve as a base. I just hot glued it in place, so that the shape would sit in place and be stable.
  • Add more layers if necessary. I added another layer of paper inside and out at this stage to add more strength and integrate the neck/base better with the rest of the piece.
  • Add structural detail. I made his ears and the head side pieces out of cardboard and glued them in place. I used air-dry clay to form the nose and eyebrows, mouth and fangs. You might also build these structures out of paper mache if you prefer.
  • Add texture. At this point, I added a textural layer of crepe paper to the whole head/face over the top of the structures. I applied a thin layer of glue, then pressed crepe paper down over the top without stretching, so that it would stay “crepey” and wrinkled looking. NOTE: This is a great technique to unify a structure and conceal seams in your paper mache. However, I may not do this in the future – the crepe paper texture made it impossible for me to paint smooth lines on the surface, as you can see in details like his whiskers. An alternative would be tissue paper, applied smoothly – it dries flat and smooth.
  • Add the hat brim. I wanted the hat to come off, but I also wanted it to sit over his ears, so I decided that the brim would be fixed in place, and only the top part of the hat would come off. I made a ring out of cardboard from a cereal box, and then cut slots for his ears so it would fit correctly. I happened to have black self-adhesive flocked paper like this (not an affiliate link; just for explanation) and I used it to cover both sides of the brim, which I then hot-glued in place.
  • Add a transition at the rim. When I had the brim in place, the edge where it met the inside of the bowl was a bit rough, and I wanted a little inner rim to hold the top of the hat in place. I folded black card stock and cut little slits so it would curve properly, and glued it all around the inside of the brim to make a nicer transition.
  • Finish the hat. The top of the hat is a ring made of cardboard, topped by a disc covered with that same flocking paper, then both parts glued together.
  • Paint the face. I referred to a lot of “vintage” black cat designs for the color and design of the face.
  • Add the “clothing”. His hat brim and collar are made from paper. I combined scrapbook paper with quilling paper to make the hat brim and his neck collar.

Here is what he looked like at this stage:

To be honest, Dear Reader, I should have stopped here.

Distressing/Aging the Halloween Cat Bowl

I then went on to kind of age and distress him, using similar techniques to those on Up All Night DIY. This was a bad idea, for two reasons that I could have anticipated:

  1. He is made of paper mache. Watery paint mixes will react very differently with paper material than with air-dry clay.
  2. I am not a good painter. I am not very good at painting details, so I tend to use a huge range of mixed materials to get my end results. In this case, his lips, eyebrows, and the bridge of his nose are air-dry clay over paper mache covered with a layer of crepe paper. His mouth and the tip of his nose have no crepe paper. His eye shapes are made of painted watercolor paper. His face detail was made with acrylic paints, paint pens, ink markers… all of those things are going to react differently to being aged or distressed.

I have run into this issue again and again, because I use such a hodge-podge of methods, and then forget about that at the end. When I go to do finishing processes like varnishing or distressing, everything gets really messy because all these materials react differently.

What I SHOULD HAVE done was to apply a couple layers of spray-on matte varnish. A varnish would seal and protect what I had before going further, and spraying it on would have allowed various paints and inks and papers and glues to say in place when a brush would have smeared or moved them. But that isn’t what I did. Learn from my mistakes.

Anyway, what I actually did was take a loose, watery mixture of greyish/brownish paint and apply it over the edges of all the lighter colors in his clothing and face, and selectively wiped it away to make him look aged.

Final Details on the Halloween Cat Bowl

Then I just wrapped this project up with a couple finishing touches:

  • Skull decor. I recently got a silicone skull mold, and wanted to try the hot-glue-in-a-silicone-mold technique (trip report: it totally works! Squeeze a bunch of glue evenly in the mold and then allow it to cool until it is opaque – it comes out perfectly. I would not try this with something really large, because the glue firms up too quickly and only “flows” for a second or two into all the nooks and crannies, but it’s worth playing with and seeing what results you get). Anyway, I took the hot glue skulls and first painted them orange, then distressed them with a tiny bit of watered-down black acrylic paint to bring out the detail.
  • Paper “frills”. I found these little strips of crumpled paper while I was looking for something else on this project. They were part of the packing material I got from something or another a long time ago, but I thought they would look great on the brim of the hat. I laid down a little line of hot glue, then pressed them individually in place, twice around the brim.

This was actually a really fun little project, and he looks very festive for the holiday. I think a person could use these basic techniques to make a huge range of character bowls for various occasions; it’s easy and cheap and fun.

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