I wanted to incorporate the two pairs of eye stalks that I have into a costume, and settled on snails. The eye stalks and the shell should be enough to make the costume recognizable as a snail, so as long as the rest of the outfit is just black (to match the stalks), I’m good. And I have two sets of stalks, so I’ll make two snail shells.
I took about five million intermediate pictures of the snail shell making process, and they are presented in three posts (including this one) that show the construction and painting of the shells, and then what I did to make them wearable. So if you’re not interested in a step-by-step tutorial on snail shell making, just skip to the completed costumes.
The first thing I did was do a web search on snail costumes. Turns out, there is a real shortage of online tutorials on how to make snail costumes. I did find one, however, which was extremely helpful. I’ve used it as a starting point for my own costume creation.
A snail shell is, really, a big spiral that just gets smaller and smaller until it reaches the top. So for each shell, I bought two pool noodles of different sizes. I also bought a package of those long, skinny balloons that you use to make balloon animals, since they are the same shape as the noodles, only smaller. I also bought a package of flexible clothes dryer vent, since it is the same shape as the noodles, only bigger. Other stuff I used were shish-ka-bob skewers (to hold the noodles together), and packing tape (to attach the balloons.)
The noodles were very stiff, so the first thing I did was cut little notches out of one side, so that I could bend it around into a circle.
I sort of twisted and stacked the noodles, using the skewers to hold them together – which you can see in the image of the curled up noodle on the right. Then I taped a long balloon to the top. I should have put something else – even a little piece of cardboard – on the very top, but made it work anyway. Then I covered the whole shebang with paper mache. I used brown kraft paper (which was just scrunched up packing material that came in a shipment at work) and mixed the paper mache to be about 1 cup of flour with 1 and a half cups of water. I basically just added water until it was thick, but workable – whatever that means.
Once I had the top side covered with paper mache, I decided I wanted the shell to be larger, so I added some dryer vent hose. I had to clip off the skewers, and then used more skewers, punching them through the venting and into the noodles, to hold the whole thing together. Finally, I sort of scrunched the metal vent hose shut at the end to close the end of the shell. You can see the layers of balloon (yellow), pool noodles (green and blue) and vent hose (silver) in the picture on the right below.
To complete the construction, I taped a piece of cardboard over the open bottom, and covered any exposed areas with more paper mache.
And since I had two pairs of eye stalks, I made two shells – under the assumption that I could find someone else to dress as a snail and come with me.
Once the shells were dry, it was time to move on to painting them!